Companies continue HB2 pushback following McCrory’s executive order

A day after Gov. Pat McCrory walked back parts of House Bill 2, this much was clear: Pushback from the worlds of business and politics hasn’t ended.

▪ Facebook said Wednesday McCrory’s order doesn’t change the stance of the company, which previously said it was “disappointed” by HB2. The state law, which McCrory signed last month, overturned a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that extended protections to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

▪ Google declined to comment on the order but cited a March 24 tweet that described HB2 as “misguided and wrong.”

▪ Apple Wednesday pointed to a statement issued last month in which it said it was disappointed to see McCrory sign HB2.

▪ The Southern Sociological Society, which had booked its yearly meeting in 2019 at the Westin Charlotte, previously announced plans to cancel that event over HB2. The group said McCrory’s actions Tuesday did nothing to change its mind.

“We do not think that anything substantial has changed and will not hold our conference until the HB2 is repealed,” said President Barbara Risman.

▪ Former Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr announced plans to cancel a June 18 performance in Cary, citing the “need to take a stand against this hatred.” The move comes after Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert set for this past Sunday night in Greensboro over HB2.

Other companies that have been critical of HB2 commended the governor’s move but said more work needs to be done.

Charlotte-based Bank of America said it remains concerned about the bill’s impact on its employees and customers. The Charlotte-based bank, though, lauded the order’s extension of new protections for LGBT state workers. And American Airlines, which has its second-largest hub in Charlotte, called it a “positive first step.” The airline said it remains “committed to continuing discussions with elected officials to mitigate the impact.”

McCrory’s office could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The governor’s Tuesday order extends new protections for state workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But the order leaves unchanged statewide non-discrimination rules that do not provide legal protections for gay and transgender customers in places of public business.

His order followed statewide economic fallout over the legislation. At least 13 conventions have canceled their events in Charlotte because of HB2, and the Charlotte Regional Visitor Authority said Wednesday that it’s still too soon to tell whether McCrory’s order will have any impact on their decisions to return. But the measure may have dissuaded some who were considering Charlotte for events further in the future.

“So it shows that the damage actually lasts much longer … as bookings happen two to five years out,” said Tom Murray, CEO of the CRVA.

Charlotte’s civic leaders want welcome businesses back. They announced the launch of a messaging campaign to tout the city as a good place for business. Indianapolis had a similar campaign after that state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law last year.

Besides conventions, HB2 led to companies dropping or halting plans to expand in the state. PayPal, for example, pulled the plug on a planned operations center in Charlotte that would have employed 400.

The payments company did not return repeated requests for comment Wednesday. Last week, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman told the Observer he hoped that McCrory would repeal HB2.

More than 130 executives across the country, including the CEOs of Twitter and Marriott, signed a letter issued last month asking for the bill’s repeal.

None of those executives have asked to have their names removed from the letter since McCrory’s action Tuesday, said Matt Hirschy, director of advancement for Equality NC, one of the groups that sent the letter to McCrory.

“In fact, we’ve had companies calling us back and asking what they can do to engage further and continue in this fight,” Hirschy said.

Additional major corporations have added their signatures to the letter following McCrory’s Tuesday announcement, Hirschy said. He said those names could be announced by the end of this week.

A group of six U.S. senators, including one Republican, announced Tuesday they are asking the NBA to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of HB2. After the bill’s passage, the NBA released a statement saying it didn’t know what impact the legislation will have on its “ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game.”

“…We cannot condone nor stand idly by as North Carolina moves to legalize and institutionalize discrimination against the LGBT community,” the Tuesday letter states.

It was unclear whether the letter was drafted before McCrory’s executive action.

The NBA did not return a request for comment.

Dallas Woodhouse, the N.C. GOP executive director, said NBA “has a dozen teams in states that have similar levels of non-discrimination protections as North Carolina. Are they going to ask the NBA to move those teams as well?”

Some other companies said Wednesday they are still digesting the order.

For its part, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, whose CEO signed Equality NC’s letter last month, said it was monitoring the situation and had no further comment at this point.

Charlotte Chamber CEO Bob Morgan said the order addresses some of the concerns voiced by businesses and HB2 opponents, but there’s still work to do.

“We’re asking every member of the legislature to help find a solution,” he said.

Observer staff writers Steve Harrison, Katherine Peralta and Ely Portillo contributed.